In the autumn of 1997, a national contest – Let’s Make Life Better! – was launched to inspire and mobilise Mongolian youth between the ages of 20 and 30. The idea was simple: for youth to come up with the best ideas to “design their own small and local development project.”
Launched with a cross-country advertising campaign, the prize of US $1,000 to implement the winning project (a substantial sum of money at the time) drew 580 project proposals by the contest deadline of December 15, 1997.
So many of the ideas were excellent, they were later to receive support from either the government, NGOs or international organisations. Read the story in the Blue Sky Bulletin newsletter about the contest’s winner below:
Editor: David South
Publisher: UNDP Mongolia Communications Office
Published: Blue Sky Bulletin, Issue Number Six, May/June 1998
“When the phone operator told me it was a call from the UN in Ulaanbaatar, I didn’t expect I would be the winner – my uncle was almost in tears.”
The words of 27-year-old UN contest winner Mr. Ciezd Nygmed tells it all. Speaking to a group of journalists at UN headquarters in Ulaanbaatar, Mr. Ciezd confirmed his joy: “I’m in a state of total bliss!”
On Monday, May 4 the United Nations awarded US $1,000 to Mr. Ciezd – a teacher from Bayan-Ulgii aimag – for his project to start a ger school for herder children who have dropped out of school.
“Herders don’t want to send children to school without school supplies,” says Ciezd, who has been teaching for six years at the primary school in Delwnuu soum. This means poor children end up dropping out of the school system – or never going in the first place.
The ger school will be set up in June in the summering pastures of 33 Kazakh families. A teacher will be hired for the 40 children in need of basic literacy skills. The school will operate from June until September.
Ciezd says there are many benefits to bringing the school to the children. In the school where he currently teaches, many children stay in dormitories and parents must pay for their food. The children attending the ger school will be able to eat at home, saving parents precious togrogs.
The project is already receiving support from local governors. They have pledged to help buy the ger, leaving more funds for school supplies and the maintenance of the school.
During his six-day stay in Ulaanbaatar, Ciezd received one-on-one counselling from distance education advisers at UNESCO, the UN culture and education agency. UNESCO has pioneered distance education in Mongolia, particularly in the Gobi desert. Mr. Monxor, UNESCO coordinator for non-formal education, told Ciezd this was the first initiative of its kind in Bayan-Ulgii.
He also spent some time in the newly-established United Nations Information Shop, a one-stop, drop-in resource centre on development issues. Ciezd particularly found the advice from donors most helpful in planning the future of the project.
In October 1997, the UN “Let’s Make Life Better!” contest asked Mongolian youth between 20 and 30 to tell us how they would make life better in their communities. We wanted small projects that could significantly change the lives of people in one community. By the deadline of December 15, the UN office was flooded with 580 project proposals from across Mongolia. To speed up the selection of the winner, the Mongolian Youth Federation formed a panel of judges and selected the five finalists. Keeping in the spirit of the contest, the four runners-up receive gardening kits complete with trowels, watering cans, seeds and spades.
© David South Consulting 2017